(Why is it up to the Prime Minister’s office to make these announcements? I thought Gordon Brown had given up any part in deciding on bishops. Anyway I find it offensive that secular authorities have any part in choosing leaders in the church – but that’s another issue.)
In many ways Stephen Cottrell seems a good choice for this job – except that unlike the last five of the nine holders of the post he is not called John! He has been well regarded as Area Bishop of Reading since 2004. He is only 51 and so should be able to serve Chelmsford for many years – unlike recent post holders: only one of the five Johns served more than ten years. He received several positive mentions in comments in a post at the Ugley Vicar last September about possible candidates. Cottrell was brought up in Essex, and writes (as reported by the Church Times blog):
For me coming to Essex and East London feels like coming home.
But this appointment is bound to be controversial in some quarters. Only last week John Richardson, a vicar who will be serving under Cottrell, wrote in a post Erroneous and Strange Bishops:
When Jeffery John was forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading, the appointment of Stephen Cottrell as his successor was greeted with enthusiasm by evangelicals within the Diocese of Oxford. Yet John and Cottrell are both members of the liberal group, Affirming Catholicism, and a glance at the cover of this book (published in 1998) is a salutory warning that the two men may differ little in underlying theology. For what reason, then, was Cottrell welcomed in place of John, other than that he was not a homosexual?
Indeed as I write John Richardson has just posted his own announcement of this appointment, with a link to his earlier post and the text of a press release – but no personal comment as yet.